Pity the Hon. Paul D. Wilson. Next month in an Edgartown courtroom, the associate justice of the superior court will hear testimony on an issue that lurks beneath almost every conversation on the Vineyard these days. What is the character of the Island?

The question comes in a lawsuit brought by the would-be developers of Meeting House Place, whose project was rejected by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, but it is resonant in discussions of playing fields, crowing roosters, oversand vehicles, housing prices, pride flags, even dogs on the beach.

The Vineyard was once a place of tolerance, old timers say. But the Island population was smaller then, and the nation as a whole was not so fractured. With a census swelled by pandemic refugees, year-round residents suddenly find themselves living next to neighbors with new expectations. Disagreements that were once resolved by friendly negotiation are increasingly ending up in court, aired on social media, or both.

We’ve said many times before: with finite borders, there is a limit to how much more development the Island can physically handle. The Vineyard’s infrastructure — its roads, schools and sewage treatment facilities — are already facing capacity. New research this week published by the Great Ponds Foundation confirms the toll from residential septic systems on the ponds that lie along the south shore. One of the Island’s most important historical and natural resources is threatened by too much nitrogen.

But the effect of growth on the Island’s character and culture is just as critical, if a bit harder to define. How does population density affect people’s ability to get along? When does the popularity of the Island spoil the very thing that makes it desirable?

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s decision to deny the Meeting House Place development was based on a number of factors, but one of them was character. Judge Wilson is sure to get an earful.